'Shop' Guys Discuss Steroid Report, Vick Sentencing Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarette, Lester Spence and Barbershop newcomer Roland Martin weigh in on the Mitchell Report, which implicates Major League Baseball players on possible steroid use. The men also discuss the recent sentencing of former NFL star quarterback Michael Vick and the tense race for the White House among contenders Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

'Shop' Guys Discuss Steroid Report, Vick Sentencing

'Shop' Guys Discuss Steroid Report, Vick Sentencing

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Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarette, Lester Spence and Barbershop newcomer Roland Martin weigh in on the Mitchell Report, which implicates Major League Baseball players on possible steroid use. The men also discuss the recent sentencing of former NFL star quarterback Michael Vick and the tense race for the White House among contenders Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about whatever is in the news and whatever is on their minds. In the chairs for a shape up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, Professor Lester Spence, columnist Roland Martin and Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist. I may jump in. But for now, take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Hey. Hey, fellows. Welcome to the shop. How are we doing?



IZRAEL: All right. Well, check this out. The Mitchell report, which aims to reveal the serious drug culture in baseball, is posted on the Internet for all to see. Now, Rollie Roll(ph). Roland Martin, this is your first time in the Barbershop. Welcome. How is this going to shake up baseball going forward?

ROLAND MARTIN: First of all, it's going to benefit Barry Bonds the most. Barry Bonds has gotten all of the attention over the past two years. And so, all of a sudden, now that you have other potential Hall of Fame guys like Roger Clemens now being implicated. Now, these other sportswriters who love this and Barry are going to have to somehow criticize their favorite boy, Roger Clemens. So I can't wait to see what they say about him and Miguel Tejada and these other guys who they've been heaping praise on all these years.

IZRAEL: I see. So now, the criticism gets spread around. Lester?

SPENCE: Yeah, I think Roland is right. And what I actually like to see happen - I don't think this will. But what I actually like to see happen is actually somebody - at least somebody - make the argument that given the pervasive use of this among baseball's best athletes and best players, that perhaps we should actually move toward some type of legalization or regulation. Because it's not just about using steroids and hit the ball faster, you have to remember, these guys are playing a 162-game seasons and probably at least some of them are using it to actually extend their careers rather necessarily to get a competitive edge over the guys.

IZRAEL: That's a really interesting point. Ruben, legalize it?

NAVARRETTE: No, I don't think so. I don't think - I think that where the debate is going to go is over this idea of privacy and over this whole notion of whether or not the name should have been published at all. And I really think that's the wrong debate to have. I mean, if in fact - as Roland pointed out - it's okay to take someone like Barry Bonds and drag his name through the mud for something similar and raise questions about whether or not he should have an asterisk next to his name in the record books, then why isn't it okay to put other people up there and let them likewise be up for the, sort of, same public scrutiny? So...

MARTIN: I understand what you're saying, but I also feel like Barry Bonds whether we like it or not has been subjected to a law enforcement proceeding. I mean, he's been brought before a grand jury.

NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.

IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: So that's the public fact - even though the grand jury testimony itself is supposed to be secret. But I don't know. I mean, if you were one of these guys - I mean...

MARTIN: I mean, the bottom line is no one can point to Barry Bonds ever failing a test. Same thing to a lot of these players. So you're sitting here saying, wait a minute, you're putting me out on Front Street. I never failed the test. And in many ways...

MARTIN: Yeah. But Roland, the whole point is to evade failing a test. I mean, that's part of the game.

MARTIN: But also a part of the game on the owner's standpoint is to turn the other way because you want to get paid. You know, so bottom line is if the owners want to get paid, the general managers want to get paid, we're sitting here dogging on the athletes...


MARTIN: That's why I appreciate, at least, this report is blaming all of baseball.

SPENCE: Yeah. It's systemic. It's systemic. And that's why I brought up the idea of legalization.

MARTIN: I just think...

IZRAEL: You know what? I think we have to have a conversation, in general, about these athletes being lifted up as role models as opposed to us being us as parents being role models, because there's another athlete - Michael Vick. He's been sentenced to 23 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting operation at a home that he owns.

MARTIN: Okay. So you know I'm out of this one, right?

MARTIN: Why, do you got a dog or something?

MARTIN: No. My...


IZRAEL: She's got the dog in this fight.

MARTIN: I have a dog in this fight.

MARTIN: I know this man.

MARTIN: Cousin Martin. Okay. But I'll step out of the shop, gentlemen.


MARTIN: I'll let you all talk.

IZRAEL: Ain't no problem. Listen, Lester, was the punishment too harsh or not harsh enough?

SPENCE: Well, what it was - the punishment would have been lighter had he actually owned up - not lied. I think he failed the drug test. You know, he said that he hadn't been using drugs. And there are couple other things that he actually said he was doing or wasn't doing and got caught lying about. So it's really hard to make a case when you've done all that stuff. So to that extent, I mean, 24 months, he probably should have gotten more. But, you know, we'll see.

MARTIN: Let me go Forrest Gump.

IZRAEL: Roland?

MARTIN: Stupid is as stupid does.


MARTIN: When your butt in trouble...


MARTIN: ...and you've got the most to lose...


MARTIN: You should be running your mouth like a faucet. Look at here; we got to cut a deal. Let me get in front of this thing. How are going to sit here, knowing full well, you have pleaded guilt. You're going to fail a drug test.

IZRAEL: All right, fellows. Well, on to another dogfight. Check this out. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are tied up - pulling at a dead heat in New Hampshire. But if Hillary fights back, will she lose her black supporters? Ruben?


IZRAEL: How will liberals respond?

NAVARRETTE: They are not doing well. I'll tell you this. White liberals like African-Americans in the role in which they've cast them, and that is a supporting role. White liberals supposed to carry the ball and when they get in trouble, they're going to the black community and they're going to count on the black community to support them. And black communities have been very, very loyal to white liberals, including, especially, Bill Clinton - former president and - according to Toni Morrison - America's first black president.

But in this case, what you have is Barack Obama actually wants to be a player. And he's leading Hillary Clinton in Iowa. He is tied with her effectively in New Hampshire and now, the spotlight's on white liberals to see how they're going to react. And I got to tell you, brother, they are not reacting well.

Let me just cut to the chase, all the stuff they threw at Barack Obama, I'm going to give you the worst one. This week, Bill Shaheen, her co-chairman up in New Hampshire was talking to a reporting from the Washington Post and he basically said, you can't put forward Barack Obama as the party's nominee because he's flawed. Republicans will pull out all these dirty tricks like they'll bring up his past drug use. You know, past drug use? You know, that actually - Barack has put that out already, what's the big deal with that? But wait, it gets worse. At that point, Shaheen said, yeah, you know, I can imagine Republicans asking questions like, did you sell drugs to anyone? Okay? Time out.

SPENCE: Right.

NAVARRETTE: Because during that whole conversation with Bill Clinton back in '92, when we talked about drugs and he says I didn't inhale, nobody suggested that Bill Clinton was a drug dealer. Do you think it's a coincidence that the first time you have an African-American-top-tier candidate running for president, a white liberal brings up a notion of them being a drug dealer? Hmmm. I'm not sure, very bad.

SPENCE: Well...

IZRAEL: L. Spence.

SPENCE: What I'm more interested is that there are number of people who are talking about that black people didn't support Obama at first because they didn't - black people didn't feel he was black enough. Some people actually made idiotic comments that black people didn't love themselves enough. But what this really shows is black people, I think, are some of the most sophisticated voters...

NAVARRETTE: Very true.

SPENCE: ...in America. And they've been that way. When Obama first hit, they wanted to see how he rolled, and now they actually like what they see, they're shifting their preference. That's actually a story.

MARTIN: No, but with this, but the story...

IZRAEL: Rollie Ro, kick it.

MARTIN: But the story though is here you have a cat who is the son of a former governor of New Hampshire, who is the co-chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, making this comment when Obama had cut her lead down to two points in New Hampshire. The Clinton campaign is running scared. They came out swinging. They had thrown all kind of stuff out and he's had this momentum. And they've been trying everything. If she goes negative, it bounced. They tried the gender card, she got nailed for it. Then they went up to him and this whole issue writing an essay in kindergarten. I'm like, oh come on.


MARTIN: Well, I mean, that's what you got going on.

SPENCE: I'm not saying that the story isn't important. It is interesting. And he's going to get canned and what will happen to Senator Clinton is going to happen to her. But for me, what's interesting is just that shift in black support. And how people are going to pitch that because it kind of charge on the same.

MARTIN: But the shift is coming because many black voters are saying, I don't think white folks will vote for Obama. He's leading in Iowa.

NAVARRETTE: Well, how do we know this isn't just residual Oprah effect? How do we know this just isn't a feel-good surge?

MARTIN: Because the surge started three weeks before Oprah.

SPENCE: Yeah, right.

MARTIN: This has been building after her first stumble in that debate and he's been rolling ever since. And so now...

NAVARRETTE: Because she's unlikable. She is unlikable.

MARTIN: There you go.

NAVARRETTE: When she does stuff like this, she comes off unlikable. The one thing that her husband has that she does not have and she can't manufacture is likeability.


NAVARRETTE: She actually enjoys people, I don't think she enjoys people. I don't think she enjoys people. And she resents having to run for president. She wants to be coronated president and...

MARTIN: But it's...

NAVARRETTE: ...it's coming across. And Obama is lapping it up and everybody likes...

MARTIN: He's putting the heat on.


MARTIN: It's not just likeability...

IZRAEL: Hey, L. Spin.

MARTIN: But it's that her politics are bad.

MARTIN: Hold on guys for just a minute. If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're in the Barbershop for our weekly visit with Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Roland Martin, and Lester Spence.

And one thing, Lester said Bill Shaheen was going to resign from the Clinton campaign. Just to clarify, of course, he did resign.

But, guys, I wanted to bring up something else. I wanted to bring up the number of birth to unmarried women. Help me out here, Jimi. The rate of unmarried...

IZRAEL: The rate of unmarried women giving birth...

MARTIN: ...women giving birth.

IZRAEL: ...has increased according to the reports from the CDCP, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, Roland, wrote a little bit about that on CNN.com. Ro?

MARTIN: Well, the reason it's interesting, of course, is that people say well, the reason I say policies is that folks...


MARTIN: ...say, well, gee, is this arising because, you know, abstinence is only education, it's so dominant now. But in fact, you see the biggest increase is women in their 20s.

MARTIN: First of all, yes several things to get inside of the number is really sort of who are the folks that are having these kids? You know, if the 20 something or 30 something or 40 something that turns the people who were thinking, you know what, I'll rather raise a child on my own, being then, the whole notion - because you also have to look at the fact that the numbers are showing that people are getting married later in life, both men and women, especially African-Americans. It does become a issue though when it comes to that child having balance in terms of a mother and a father. My wife and I don't have kids. But we've been raising - we raised, at different times, six of my nieces and two of them still live in home my in Texas. And because I've been so busy this year with my five jobs, they are like, you know what, we haven't seen you much Uncle Ro-ro. You know, is he going to come home more often?

You know, these are young girls. Their mother is raising them. They're still wanting my male presence. And so, that is a concern there for the questionnaires of these unmarried women who are having kids, what's the male presence there so that child, given their balance in terms of father and mother.

NAVARRETTE: What I'm curious about, Roland, is what role do single mothers take in their own life? I mean, as far as I know, you know, they still got a family planning center at every drugstore and all the good stuff is mad cheap. It's less expensive than a hair relaxer. What's up with that?

MARTIN: But you got to get inside the numbers. You can say here are the stats increase in unmarried women having children. It always goes back to why? Are they having children because they want to have children?


MARTIN: Or are they having children that it was sort of an accident? If you have an increase in women who are saying I'm having children because I want to.


MARTIN: Or is it the issue that - let's just break it down because many of these women feel that the potential marriage partners are not there.

MARTIN: Right.

IZRAEL: Lester?

SPENCE: Yeah, and that's - so the first thing I thought of. I actually checked out one of Roland's pieces about it. The first thing I thought of is that the younger the - particularly, the younger folks access to, you know, the health stuff may be inexpensive, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have access, that they don't knowledge about it. But the other thing is I like to see us have a larger conversation about what sets of policies can we generate to make those who choose to have kids without fathers to make their lives better and to make the lives of those kids better?

MARTIN: Lester, you're talking about ignorance. You know, I mean, they teach the birds and the bees in sixth-grade health class, bro. So everybody knows about birth control. Ruben, jump in here please.

NAVARRETTE: Yo, I mean, this is a problem. This is something that will always come back to haunt the black community, the white community, to some degree, the Latino community because there needs to be more stigma attached to this kind of behavior, to having...

SPENCE: Right.


NAVARRETTE: ...children outside of wedlock.


NAVARRETTE: It used to be a stigma.

SPENCE: Besides it's not cool to be baby mama.

NAVARRETTE: Why? Because it's not a good thing.

MARTIN: Why not?

NAVARRETTE: It's not a good thing, most importantly, it's not a good for the kid because...

MARTIN: No, poverty isn't cool.

NAVARRETTE: ...as people laid out. That sounds more like...

MARTIN: Being a single mother is not cool, bro.

NAVARRETTE: That sounds more like...

MARTIN: Because of poverty.

NAVARRETTE: That sounds more like liberal gobbledeegook. I mean, the issue here is not the people don't have money, the issue here is whether kids are going to have two parents. And I think we've become way too permissive and way too accommodating to folks and we should just say, this is not the kind of behavior we want to encourage more of. There should be some kind of...

MARTIN: Absolutely, but...

NAVARRETTE: (unintelligible).

MARTIN: Holler, holler, holler.

NAVARRETTE: Okay, Roland.

IZRAEL: But, you know, I think we got to go back to, you know, why somebody's having a kid.


IZRAEL: If there is a single woman who has a job, she has means, and she says, you know what, one, I don't want to get married, but I do want to have a kid. She could take care of her child. What it's an issue when you are teenager or you are...

MARTIN: But, I'm sorry, I know more people who say, I would like to get married, but there are no suitable partners out here for me.

IZRAEL: What? I've heard that too.

SPENCE: (unintelligible).

MARTIN: And in the absence of a suitable partner, I don't want to be childless.

MARTIN: So what Ruben is saying is those people shouldn't have kids. So we can say that lawyers having kids without fathers are okay. Then the only thing that distinguishes that lawyer from that mother in that 75 percent category is poverty.

NAVARRETTE: If a woman in that case says that she's walking through the process, as Michel said, I don't see a suitable partner, I don't want to be childless. She had bought through the process.


NAVARRETTE: She has walked through it.

MARTIN: That's right.

NAVARRETTE: The issue is when it comes to somebody who hasn't done that, who all of a sudden, lays down with somebody and gets pregnant and then having a kid.

MARTIN: Well, look, I just appreciate hearing you all grapple with this. But speaking with grappling with something, seriously, here's something I wanted to raise. I was hoping I could take a minute. Why don't you bring up an e-mail which is representative of some of the mail we've got in the recent weeks about the Barbershop.

In a number of our conversations, particularly about politics, a couple of you - I don't want to call names but you all know who you are, have got a...


MARTIN: ...has been a little tough on the traditional civil rights leaders. This is a subject that has come up a couple of times and so this is what one listener had to say.

Listening to these young brothers is comparable to sound of fingernails raking across a blackboard. Personally, I find it bothersome that these young men who probably never fought for anything, and by birth alone, inherited the benefits of the civil rights movement without shedding blood, sweat or tears, can joke and disrespect older leaders like Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Al Sharpton. Our communities are in critical condition. At least, Jesse and other older African- Americans are putting their energy and effort toward rallying black ministers in churches to get tested for AIDS, helping people keep their homes.

And it goes on from there. I'll delete the part where she talked about how you all are sitting in a Starbucks sipping your expensive lattes over your expensive laptops, while they're out there fighting for the people. But do you get the drift.

MARTIN: It sounds familiar because if she said it's for history, she'll see that when - now, the folks who we refer to as the baby Boomers, people who are in their 50s and 60s and coming into 60, when they were coming up, they likewise had the same sort of generational friction with the generation before them. And now when people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are getting it from below, from younger folks, suddenly they're more inclined to yell foul. Now I plead guilty. I have in the past referred to Jesse and Al as grievance merchants. Grievance merchants. They make their money out of making other people feel bad and yelling foul...

MARTIN: Not like you.


MARTIN: I'm here to make you feel good. I'm here to uplift everybody who's...

MARTIN: Yes, sir.

MARTIN: ...there's a different. And so, you know, when there's a scandal at Pepsi Cola, Jesse Jackson would be the first one there to see if they can profit from it somehow.


IZRAEL: You know what, for me...

MARTIN: Final word from you.

IZRAEL: ...as a writer and culture commentator, you know, I call down, let's stop that. You know, you've just been taken just for granted. You just refuse to question. You know, I'm trying to convince people of all colors, well, it's probably my folks to think for themselves and my gig, you either dig it or you don't. It's hard but it's fair. My name is Jimi Israel and I approve this message. How's that?


SPENCE: I know. I loved it.

IZRAEL: Thank you so much. Thanks so much for coming to the shop, fellows. I got to kick it for my favorite people. Happy holidays, Michel Martin.

MARTIN: Happy holidays to you. It's hard, but it's fair, Jimi Izrael. Jimi Izrael is a freelance writer, he joined us from WFFU in Tallahassee, Florida. Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com, he joined us from KPBS in San Diego. Roland Martin is an author, commentator and host. He joined us in our studios here in Washington. And Dr. Lester Spence is an assistance professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He joined us from his office in Baltimore.

You can find links to all of our Barbershop guests at our Web site, npr.org/tellmemore.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us today.

SPENCE: Thanks for having us.

MARTIN: Thank you.

NAVARRETTE: Glad to be here.

IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

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